Rupert Sanders, Omaha Pictures

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"I live a life of looking," explains Rupert Sanders of Omaha Pictures. Keeping his eyes open paid off during production for Guinness' "Lava," in which an erupting volcano ravages a tiny village and, in the process, endangers its supply of brew. "It was a really difficult thing to pull off," he recalls. "We were in the middle of nowhere in Poland and we were trying to destroy the town without special effects. It was all getting quite out of hand." That is, until Sanders stumbled on a massive coal slag heap, which eventually provided the practical makings of the volcano and its molten spew. "There's a certain magic that happens when things are right there before you. It's very hard to have ideas in postproduction. You can say, 'I want to put this car on a rooftop,' and if that car is really up there, you're going to have so many opportunities to be imaginative with it."

He recounts a lesson he learned from former mentor Tony Kaye, whom he met in L.A. after graduating from art school in London: "Don't try to do what you can do in front of camera elsewhere. Try to make the images live and then capture them rather than doing everything afterward." As Sanders has quietly emerged on his own as one of the industry's most admired directors for his visually inspired storytelling, that philosophy has served him well on recent jobs for HP, Lloyds and Nissan - during the latter, he actually got dolphins to swim alongside cars on a pontoon. There was also the mesmerizing "Great Return" for Nike, for which he constructed an elaborate camera rig in order to create videogame-inspired camera perspectives. Sanders easily switches gears from big production to quietly impactful, performance-driven spots like Nike's "Pull-up," in which actors' mere exchange of glances powerfully communicates the heat of competition. His flair with all sorts of tale-telling is something he hopes agencies will soon pick up on. "I'd love to do some completely different things, but, unfortunately, unless you've already done it, you don't get it. I'm waiting patiently for some enlightened soul to think that I can make humans talk and make things funny."

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